County’s health clinic won’t destroy local system

By Janet Rowland and Craig Meis

In response to a recent editorial, a column and several letters to the editor in The Daily Sentinel, we’d like to offer the following clarifications:

Myth No. 1: Mesa County is setting up “government-run health care.”

Facts: Mesa County is contracting with the private sector for the management of a health clinic for county employees. As far as “weakening” the rest of the system, Mesa County has 1,800 members (employees and dependents) on the county medical plan. This is approximately 1.2 percent of the 145,000-plus individuals in Mesa County.

Having 1.2 percent of the people in the county occasionally visit our health clinic for minor health issues is unlikely to have a significant impact on the health care system in Mesa County. It will, however, significantly reduce the amount of tax dollars we all spend on health care for county employees.

Myth No. 2: Mesa County did not work with the local medical community in planning for this.

Facts: For several years, Mesa County has discussed with local health care providers the plan for a county health clinic to reduce county health care costs. In 2009, four local health care businesses were invited to bid on the management side of the health clinic. (Please note that managing the office is different from providing medical care, as we will discuss below). Of the local businesses contacted, only one submitted a proposal to manage the county’s health clinic. One local business was given extra time to submit a proposal, but in the end chose not to. Unfortunately, the one local proposal we received did not provide the type of services or significant savings that other proposals provided.

Myth No. 3: Mesa County is steering patients away from their primary care doctors.

Facts: Mesa County employees and dependents may continue to see their primary care doctors whenever they choose. Employees don’t need to ever enter the health clinic if they choose not to. The health clinic is for basic care, wellness care, some generic medications and lab work. All employees and their dependents will still need to see their primary-care doctors for all other needs, even if they do use the health clinic for some services.

Myth No. 4: Mesa County will “defund” Medicaid patients.

Facts: As previously stated, the 1,800 county employees and dependents are approximately 1.2 percent of the total population of Mesa County. Not all 1,800 people on the county plan will use the health clinic, so, in reality, that number will be lower. Those who do use the health clinic will still need to see their primary-care doctors for many of their health care needs, which will continue to help fund the Medicaid system in Mesa County.

Myth No. 5: Mesa County will use outside doctors for the health care clinic.

Facts: Mesa County has every intention of contracting with local physicians for the health clinic (provided there are local physicians who are interested).

The contract we signed in June was for clinic management services only, not health care services. The management piece — staffing, paperwork, insurance, billing — is a very expensive part of health care. Many physicians’ offices need a lot of back-office staff to handle billing and claims. The health clinic model allows Mesa County to pay for actual services rendered, and let the doctors do what they do best: practice medicine.

Mesa County is committed to working with local physicians to provide medical care in our new health clinic. In the future, we would be interested in working with local businesses that want to be involved in the management side of this endeavor — as long as they can provide the quality services we need in a cost-effective manner.

Craig Meis is chairman of the Mesa County Board of Commissioners. Janet Rowland is a county commissioner. They were the two who voted to establish a clinic for county employees.


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